Newsletter | Nov/Dec 2008

Watercolor Journaling at the 2008 Retreat

Honor Your Professional Legacy

by Inge Horton
Recently, I was twice reminded of the importance of honoring one's work and preserving one's professional legacy. I am proud of two women architects who looked back on their life's work and acted to preserve it. After reviewing their architectural records and organizing them, they donated them to the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA.)

Sally Bould Stan (1917-2008) is no longer with us and this article is dedicated to her memory. When I first met Sally, she was in her early 80s and had decided to retire and close her architectural practice. Sally impressed me as a “practical, down-to-earth (as Heather Reid described her in the September 1999 OWA newsletter) woman with a nice sense of humor. As a mother of three children, Sally had worked out of her home, with her drawing board placed on one end of the dining room table. This allowed her to effectively use every free minute when the family did not demand her attention, and not waste any time on commuting.

When I visited her in 1998, Sally, with her low-key attitude, showed me her garage where she kept her drawings neatly stacked in big green garbage bags. I still have to chuckle when I remember this scene and my only regret is that I did not photograph it. Her legacy was 1,500 to 2,000 projects, mainly ranch houses, in the Lafayette area and Oakland hills in the East Bay. She designed them for a contractor or directly for clients, generally referred to her by word-of-mouth. Imagine, there were no paper files, just drawings, and Sally was able to date and organize her projects using her receipt book. She selected about seventy-five projects, which in her opinion would represent her career and sent them to the Archive. It was a meaningful experience at the end of her career to look back on her work and know that some of her drawings would live on at the IAWA.

The second woman is Marie Laleyan AIA of San Francisco. As one of the early members of OWA, she is of importance to our history of establishing a women's organization with the goal of furthering women in architecture. When Marie closed her office in downtown San Francisco, due to health reasons, she began to organize her records and collect the drawings of her many projects. She is rarely mentioned in architectural magazines, because she is not a big star architect. However, her work in designing low-cost housing and renovating residential hotels in often run-down neighborhoods has had a profound effect on brightening the lives of many people. It restored dignity to their lives and allowed quality of life for people on the margin of our society.

Marie's old friend from her native Bulgaria, Milka Bliznakov, the founder of the IAWA, had urged her for many years to send her collection to the IAWA. Now, with her fragile health condition, it was not an easy task. With an admirable persistence, she managed and assembled an impressive documentation of her career. In October of 2008, she sent her drawings, photographic records, and project files to the International Archive where her collection will be an important and valued addition.

By the way, if any of you readers have the desire to preserve your own architectural heritage, you do not need to wait until you have retired or have reached the age of eighty. And, please, don't wait until you're too sick to select your work or, until, after your death, your children or executors wonder what to do with your drawings and throw them out because they do not know that they would be valuable to "Herstory", the history of women in architecture. You can do it now! Take some time out of your busy schedules and dedicate it to your legacy! Similarly to a down-payment, you can start by sending just a few of your favorite projects and add others over time, or you can send all your projects at once.

For further information, please refer to the IAWA newsletter No. 19 of 2007 at the bottom of the page 5 and read the article From Your Care to Ours which explains the donation process and which kind of projects the IAWA would like to receive. I will be happy to assist you with any additional questions you may have (415) 681-7594 or you can contact the Archivist, Dr. Aaron Purcell at or call (540) 231-9672.

View this page in your browser